Chapter 11 pt B
I felt no need to move. The room was warm and Brinley was curled up next to me. This was an ideal spot to be in right now.
Brinley stretched in the firelight. It was a slow and deliberate move to let me know that she was awake. I had been awake for a while, just sitting next to her. I didn’t feel the need to get up to go anywhere so I didn’t. For the first time in a while, I could shirk the duties that I didn’t really have at this moment at a time.
I don’t understand how anyone could stand this job without having to take a break from everything. If this job was my entire world, it would be a bleak and scary world indeed. And boring as well. The sense of plainness I have already felt seems to be taking over my life. If not for Brinley, I would probably have fallen into a daily pattern already.
Once again, one of the wonderful things she brings to my life. Something different every day. I fear for the day when I am gone and Brinley inherits all these things at once. I’m afraid ruling will kill her carefree attitude and that our child will not know the Brinley that I know.
“Good morning.” Brinley opened her eyes and looked into the fire, “My back hurts. Why does my back hurt?” Brinley perched herself up on her elbows.
“You slept on the floor.”
Brinley grimaced, “I’m getting old. I used to do this all the time without hurting.”
I rolled my eyes, “Brin, you are twenty. I think you need to put on a few more years before calling yourself old.”
“Talk for yourself, you are only 19. I’m married to a teenager. I’m old and you are a teenager.” Brinley ran her hand through her hair as she tried to process this.
“You are 5 months older than me. It’s not that much.” I protested.
There was a loud knock on the door and I whipped around so quickly that my head started spinning.
“Aus Brinley, Chi Lucian? Are you in here? The Ene’s funeral is in 30 minutes.” An exasperated voice announced as they tried to unlock the door.
I knew I had forgotten something. I knew that there was something we needed to do. I had just gotten so wrapped up in everything that had happened here that I forgot we already had a previous engagement. I gave Brinley my hand and I pulled her up.
“How’s my hair? Is it presentable?” Brinley whispered.
My eyebrows shot up as I grabbed my shirt from off the floor, “You look fine.” I assured her but now I was self-conscious about my hair. I tucked a piece of it behind my ear and put on the shirt. Brinley walked over to the door and when we both were fully dressed and presentable she unlocked it to see a very unkempt servant.
She audibly sighed as she saw that she had found us, “Please, highness, you must get dressed for the funeral.”
Knowing Ronin he sent a full-on search when I didn’t show up in time for preparation.
Then my mood faltered. Ronin wasn’t my Cons anymore. I hadn’t met my Cons yet. With all that was going on with, well everything, I hadn’t met them yet. This probably wouldn’t be a great first impression on my Cons. I felt bad to have kept them waiting.
“What were you doing that you forgot about the funeral?” The servant sighed miserably as she dragged us back up to our room.
Brinley looked at me in a state of panic so I covered for us.
“Girl, you must remember to watch your mouth.” I reminded her, “We were preparing for our eulogies at the funeral. We were reading some of the Ene’s old journals. I suppose we lost track of time and I deeply apologize for that but please, show some respect.”
“Sorry,” She quickly apologized and backed away from the entrance of the tower as we approached it. The large doors seemed to be looming with an aura of death. The tower hadn’t yet forgotten what happened up at the top of the tower and wouldn’t stop reminding me. I had tried to avoid the tower as much as possible. Only going up there to sleep. Adlai has taken it as a coping method. He has already offered to switch the royal towers. I was tempted to, I’ll admit it. I didn’t end up doing it because it would displace all the hundreds of people who lived in the tower. Besides, it was more of a symbol that the Ene’s tower was in the center of the Fortress. I couldn’t just move it.
Brinley and I walked up the stairs. She could feel my unease with the place. She didn’t say anything about it though. I was glad she refrained. I didn’t want to explain why I was avoiding our home. It would only raise more questions and prove that I lied to her which would raise even more questions and most likely uncover a second lie.
It was a whole thing but I was just glad she finally knew the final aspect of my life. I feel like it could improve our relationship for the last stretch of time.
As we got to the door I opened it for her and Brinley gave me a secret smile. It almost made it worth it to go back up here. I quickly followed her into our room and we were met by two women discussing something in the corner of our sitting room. I could see Andromeda’s face and it wasn’t surprising that she was here. After all, nothing happened to Andromeda’s social status when she got married, only Ronin’s. She still was to help Brinley get dressed and ready as her companion. The one thing I couldn’t place was the other woman. I couldn’t see her face as she was facing Andromeda and she had a dark blue wrap around her head. I suppose it wasn’t against the rules for a Royal to have a Cons of the opposite gender but generally it doesn’t happen very often because it makes both somewhat uncomfortable.
My Cons noticed Andromeda stop their conversation and turned around to see who was at the door. When she turned, I recognized her immediately. It was the woman from the market. This had to be some kind of cruel joke life was playing on me. Perhaps it was my father coming back from the grave to make my life miserable for killing him.
“Lucian, my savior!” Cersei smiled as she launched herself at me.
Cersei hugged me tightly and Brinley was looking between the two of us. She was confused. I was confused. Andromeda was as well. The only one who wasn’t confused was Cersei. She knew exactly what she was doing. Or at least I thought she did.
Cersei pulled away and beamed at me. I was still shocked into stillness and I just kind of stared at her. Brinley broke the silence in a quiet passive-aggressive way.
“Sorry, we haven’t met. How do you know my husband?” Brinley would have sounded genuine but there was a slight twinge in her voice that gave her away.
Brinley did not like this new woman who seemed to know me. I didn’t blame her. Who would have liked to see a girl throw themselves all over your husband? I certainly wouldn’t have liked to have seen it.
“Sorry, sorry.” She apologized. “You are Aus Brinley?”
Cersei’s accent was still as thick as it was in the market. Still, she was easier to understand without all the background noise.
“Yes.” Brinley hesitated.
I’m sure she had heard that we had a new person living in the Fortress but I don’t think she knew that it was going to be this woman in front of her.
“I have heard all about you. What beautiful hair you have, Aus. It is gorgeous.” Cersei swooned. I couldn’t tell if she was being genuine. I think her accent threw me off.
“Thanks.” Brinley responded with a twinge of something, “Now, who are you?”
“Me? I am surprised your husband has not mentioned me,” Cersei started.
With that comment, Brinley sent a glare over at me and my ears went red. She might need to phrase this carefully if she wants to survive.
“I’m Cersei. From the mountains. I met your husband in the marketplace a few weeks ago as I was traveling to your Fortress.”
“That was quite a warm welcome for someone you only met in the marketplace.” Brinley was suspicious.
She had every right to be. I had a feeling she was going to be suspicious of this woman for a while.
“Sorry, sorry. I forgot the most important part. Lucian,” Brinley frowned at the way she didn’t include my title. I did as well, “helped save my supplies. I had run out of money so I couldn’t buy anymore and I was so dreadfully hungry.”
“If you were invited here, why didn’t you just walk up to the castle gates. They would have let you inside.” Brinley responded.
“Ah. You obviously have no experience traveling to foreign castles and monarchies. If the ruler of the castle knows you well, you will be let in immediately. I suppose that has happened to you often enough. If the ruler does not know you well then you will receive a letter of invitation that has your window of entering the castle written down upon it. I arrived here a few days early. I could not get into the castle with my ticket for the next few days.”
I didn’t realize we had that in place. I guess Cersei was right and Brinley and I don’t travel like that very often.
“As you can see, he saved my life. And now I work for him.”
Brinley narrowed her eyes slightly as if she didn’t believe her stories.
“Wait aren’t you royal? What are you doing working here?” I interjected.
Cersei gave a sad smile, “When I told Mother I wanted to travel, she said I must learn to be without. On the invitation to the castle, my mother wrote a special note. She had written, “Only accept her into the Fortress if she will work”.
“So basically you are working a summer job?” Brinley asked.
“I suppose but it is not summer,” Cersei interjected.
We all looked out the window and sure enough, it was definitely snowing. And hard. It wouldn’t be summer for a while.
“So,” I broke the silence. I wasn’t sure that I wanted her to be my Cons. I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that, “you are my new Cons?” I choked.
“I suppose so Lucian.”
Brinley’s eyes widened as she remembered all that a Cons was to do.
“There wasn’t another job open?” I blatantly asked.
If she was offended by that, I couldn’t tell. Her face wrap was covering everything but her eyes. It was nearly impossible to read her expression.
“Mother wanted me to learn about Monarchies. What better to learn from than the absolute top.” Cersei got a gleam in her eye. I couldn’t tell what it meant.
“Sorry, it’s just sort of odd that you are working as a Cons for Lucian and not anyone else,” Brinley interjected as she put her hand over her stomach.
“Are you pregnant?” Cersei swooned.
Where has this lady been? This was old news. I thought we had already announced this. I suppose somehow she didn’t know.
“Aye,” Cersei exclaimed as she regained her focus, “You need to get dressed for the Funeral, Lucian.”
“You too, Brinley. Come on.” Andromeda walked into our bedroom.
Brinley was hesitant to take her eyes off of Cersei. Brinley was on edge. It was obvious that she was creating some sort of theory in her mind involving Cersei. No doubt it was something horrible. She finally convinced herself that I would be fine and walked into our bedroom. It was only Cersei and me in the sitting room and I was already feeling uncomfortable.
I couldn’t think of anything to say so we remained in the quiet awkwardness. How could I say anything? This woman came into my life while I was at my lowest and I almost let her waltz in and destroy everything I worked for.
For my sake and my wife’s sake, I needed to keep her at an arm’s distance. It was going to be hard now that she was supposed to know every square inch of my body. This was most definitely a big sign that I’d messed up from some higher being. I just needed to keep it together for a little bit. She wouldn’t be my Cons for long. The only thing I could say for sure was that I missed Ronin. I missed him so much.
I’m very happy that he moved up in life but I’m much more comfortable with him here and not this woman.
“I suppose you should get dressed now.” Cersei nodded towards my room.
I gave her a slight nod and walked towards the room. Cersei followed closely behind me and when we walked in, Andromeda was trying to get Brinley to wear a corset.
“But it is your father-in-law’s funeral!” Andromeda was pleading exasperated.
“Well, I have his grandchild inside me right now. Isn’t that disrespectful to him to pretend that I’m not pregnant with the child?”
I walked past our bed, trying to pretend I wasn’t hearing this conversation. Maybe I could just get dressed in the closet and ignore all of them altogether.
“You still have to wear a corset.” Andromeda walked towards her with the piece of clothing. Brinley backed up into the wall and grabbed the closest weapon she could find, a hairbrush, and tried to divert Andromeda.
“We have the future ruler in this room right now. Why don’t we ask him what’s respectful and what isn’t.” Brinley slid away from Andromeda all the while keeping her hairbrush poised for attack.
I was almost in the closet. So close.
“I think corsets are more than just showing respect for men. I think they can be a symbol of beauty.” Cersei offered.
“Well, you also don’t have a growing fetus in you.” Andromeda offered and then turned back to Brinley who was still refusing to put on the Corset.
“I wasn’t asking you, girl. I was asking my husband. You may be royalty but you still work for me and Chi Lucian. You will address us as your superiors, never as your equals and you must learn to speak only when spoken to. That is what it is to work for us. Perhaps the rules become more lenient as the years go on but we do not know you. Address us properly or get out.” Brinley drew up her nose.
You may think that Brinley was being classist but she could tell Cersei was here for trouble. If reducing the chances of Cersei and I talking would make her feel better about her off introductions, then we would follow them.
“Of course Bri-, my lady.”
“Now, Lucian. Do I have to or not have to wear a corset to your father’s funeral?”
I winced and Brinley sighed.
“Fine,” She addressed Andromeda, “give it to me.”
I walked into the closet and Cersei followed me. I didn’t really know what to do about this. On one hand, I should be able to get past my insecurities and accept that this is a professional
transaction. On the other hand, this woman just antagonized my wife and made it seem like she didn’t mean to do it. What was I supposed to think?
I turned away from her. It made me feel a little better when I wasn’t looking at her while undressing. What didn’t make it better was I could feel her eyes on my back when I pulled off my shirt.
I took off my undershirt and felt exposed. I cursed as I realized I wasn’t facing the dresser and I would have to turn around and face Cersei to get to my dress shirts. Hesitantly I did so and Cersei’s eyes widened in surprise.
I get it, I was skinny. It doesn’t mean she had to stare.
“Move, please,” I muttered as I reached for the cabinet.
Cersei was short. It made me feel tall for once. Brinley was always about my height until this year. I had grown an inch or two but I was still not very tall. However, I think I might hit 6 feet yet. I hadn’t really felt tall like this before.
Cersei’s eyes fluttered as she was confused. I gestured to the cabinet behind her and she made a small, embarrassing noise as she moved to the side. I grabbed a clean black shirt at the end of the closet before realizing how small it was.
It was my shirt from my mother’s funeral. It had been sitting in the closet for 11 years without use. I don’t remember why I kept it but it definitely wasn’t going to be fitting me anytime soon. I rolled my eyes and put the shirt back into the closet.
“What is wrong, Chi Lucian?” Cersei touched the top of my bare shoulder and I flinched.
“I don’t have the proper attire. I’ll need to retrieve some .”
“Right.”’ She nodded.
Brinley walked into the closet and observed this odd position. She eyed my shirtless self and Cersei’s hand on my shoulder. She obviously wasn’t happy about this arrangement. I don’t think anyone was, to be honest.
“All my accessories are in here so I’ll be grabbing them from time to time. We best keep this door open, you know, so I can have easy access.” Brinley was still frowning.
I moved to grab my shirt from off a chair and walked out into the bedroom. I forgot that Andromeda was here and she immediately shielded her eyes. I could feel my ears flush red as I put the shirt back on. I felt as if this day couldn’t get worse but it was about to. I was going to visit his room for the first time since I left that night. Everything will still be in its place except for four things. His last journal, my mother’s journal, the sheets on his bed, and my him.
As I sat there, knowing I was worthy of conviction, I felt numb. How could I sit here pretending that I was any better than him? I was exactly like him. He didn’t die to make the Shire better at all. He died for my personal self-preservation.
Something that made it even worse was the fact that as I was looking around his room, I had no idea who he was. My hand brushed over the grand bookshelf in the middle of his sitting room. I wondered what kind of books sat on the shelf. There was no personality in this room. The sitting chair was bare with only a single worn-out throw pillow sitting on it. His bed was neatly made, with different sheets. He had white roses sitting on his windowsill in a simple vase.
They were impressive little things. They still grew out of respect or tradition placed by my mother. They were her favorite. They signified a new life which I found odd.
After my mother had died they placed the white flowers everywhere. It was as if they were welcoming her back into the castle to stay for a while. I had learned to signify them with death because they were all I could see after my mother’s death. Here they were once again. Marking the room where my father had taken his last breath. Just like my mother. I turned my head towards the mahogany bed that sat in the middle of the bedroom. It was a grand thing. It had been around for generations and was beautifully preserved. Still, it was surrounded by a perfect aura of death.
So much has happened here. Two lives have been unrightfully stolen in a perfect tragedy. Of course, no one would know. My mother and father would not be immortalized in the story because of what happened here. No one would know. Few do know.
Of course, they weren’t the only lives the bed had taken. Generations had died in this very room. A feeling of unease crept over me as I felt I was being watched. I felt ghosts of the past breathe down my neck as they whisper.
Whispers I cannot decipher.
I could only hear one voice. A voice of someone who was supposed to be a ghost. The voice was so familiar it shook me to my core.
I pushed the door open and everything was dark. The embers in the fire were dying out. From the sitting room, I could see him sleeping in his bed. Seeing him before me sent a second wave of regret.
The voice was insistent and I slowly walked forward. I felt sick. The sword in my hand felt heavier than it had before.
“Shut up!” I accidentally said it out loud and I could see my father shift in his bed from across the room.
I walked over to his bed and I looked at him. He seemed so defenseless. It almost didn’t seem right to kill him like this. I picked up the sword’s tip from the floor and pointed it at my father. He was sleeping. I was going to kill him in his sleep?
This time it was my father’s voice.
You can’t even kill me while I’m unarmed.
I can. I can and I will.
Kill him, Lucian.
The voice was taunting me. I pressed the sword’s tip to my father’s throat.
I winced as the voice overcame me. I tried to force it away. I tried to shove it into the back of my head but it came back once again full force. The whispers rose to a higher pitch.
The voice whispered.
“Do what!?” I gasped out in agony.
This wasn’t our agreement. The voice should be gone. The voice would go away. That was the agreement. Now I couldn’t exactly go back on my end of the deal. I couldn’t raise him from the dead, especially since his funeral was today.
I picked myself up from the proverbial ditch I was in and walked into my father’s closet. It was dusty in there as if it hadn’t been opened in years. I gasped as another memory took over in my head.
She’ll lull you into a false sense of security.
She did. I was aware and she did it again. She did it again. That manipulative little Aus. I looked at her sleeping on the bed. She looked so peaceful and innocent but it was all a ruse. It was a facade to convince gullible idiots like me. This life was a game and she was outplaying everyone. She was outmaneuvering everyone. If I wasn’t careful I’d be another one of her fatalities.
Unless you get to her first.
No. I can’t kill her. I can’t. That’s not me.
She is manipulating you.
Still, I can’t. She’s my wife. I love her.
She doesn’t care about you.
She’ll kill you when you are least expecting it.
She won’t need you anymore.
I reached up the wall and pulled my sword off its post. Somehow I thought I could intimidate it into being quiet. I took the sword and pointed it at my own chest.
I will do it.
The sword clattered to the floor and I winced. I quickly looked back and made sure Brinley hadn’t woken up. She hadn’t so I picked it up again. I looked back at Brinley.
I walked over to Brinley. She looked peaceful as she slept. I brushed her hair out of her face. I can’t.
She will never love you. As soon as she’s done with you, she will kill you just to be rid of you. You need to do it while you still can.
It can’t be true. Can it?
You need to do it, Lucian.
I reached forward with my sword. Moonlight glinted off the blade in the darkness. I caught a glimpse of my own reflection. I looked absolutely haunted. I touched the blade to her chest, it wasn’t hard enough to make an incision.
Do it, Lucian.
I fell to my knees. My breathing had gotten heavy and my head was pounding to the rhythm of my heart. I could feel my arms shaking with anticipation of what? I didn’t know what was happening. Adrenaline raced through my body as a wave of pain rushed over me. I crawled forward before sprawling across the floor.
I couldn’t collapse now. I had to get to the funeral. I was here for a reason. I just needed to get the funeral suit and get out. I would be better if I got out.
The voice demanded as I pushed myself forward. I would get the suit and I would get out of here. It would all work out fine. I would get out here like I planned to do. I would get out and never again return to the room. Never again.
The voice was soft. It was silent and nearly inapprehensible but it was present. The sounds resonated throughout my head. Each time it reached the end of one way it would echo back louder than before. Soon my mind was full of what once was whispery soft. It seemed to be shouting at me.
The noise caused me pain. I tried to block my ears but the noise didn’t silence. I buried my face into my knees and I tried not to hear. I blocked out everyone’s soft snores in the room but the sound kept resonating. It made me feel like it was going to drown me. I was going to die and the last thing I would hear would be this awful noise.
The noise reached a new level and it was astronomical. I reached for my ears to make sure they weren’t bleeding. I looked around the darkroom. No one had stirred. How could they not hear this? Even if it was in my head, how had the noise not escaped? The sound’s intensity rose to a new height and I pushed my ears against my head. I wasn’t trying to block out noise anymore, I was trying to push my head in.
Just like a symphony hitting its climax I felt as if I couldn’t take it anymore. The whisper had transformed and built into a scream that exhausted me to witness. One last note in the symphony, the screams intensified for a final time, and I swear I could feel my ears start to bleed. Then the noise let up. Everything in my head was silent. It was way too quiet. My ears still felt like they were throbbing from all the noise.
I shuttered as I squeezed my knees close to my body. I shivered despite Brinley laying beside me, warming me. The realization of what had happened in my head terrified me. The intensity of the noise was almost too much to bear. What happens if the voice pushes me too far? What would happen then?
The voice whispered. My brain hurt and I winced as I prepared for the echoing. I waited for the whisper to turn into ear-piercing shrieks but it didn’t happen. It confused me because I kept waiting for more. I kept waiting for something to tell me that the voice was still there, watching and waiting for the perfect time to strike.
Everything sounded muffled and underwater.
Nothing happened. Somehow in some way, the silence was less pleasant than the noise. It made me feel all alone, even with the 5 other people in the room with me. I reached up with a shaking hand and felt my ear. A warm liquid was dripping out of my ear. I gasped quietly. The warm liquid seeped onto my hand.
The memories were perfectly preserved. Every excruciating moment of them hit me at once. It was like trying to face the biggest wave you have ever seen. A fool’s task. There is no way to make it out fully alive. Of course, I wasn’t standing. I was crawling on my knees.
Forwards. I pushed forwards and I could hardly see what was happening. The screaming in my head left me breathless.
All the memories swirled around until everything I could hear was a cacophony of old and distant memories. My brain was pulsating in my head. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was gasping for breath I could have easily had if I calmed down. Of course, I didn’t, I couldn’t. The noise just kept circulating.
I didn’t dream much that night. In fact, I wasn’t sure how long I had been asleep for anyway. All I knew was that I was dozing peacefully when my life changed in a second. Everything was quiet and still as it should be at this hour. That’s when I first heard it.
I shot up. I was suddenly very aware of my surroundings. My face was pricked with sweat but the room had gotten colder as I slept. I ran to my window and pulled back the drapes. The light of the moon filled the room as I looked around quickly. My eyes whipped around the room as I searched for the voice. There was no one there.
“Ronin?” I asked hesitantly.
There was no response.
“Ronin? I swear to the Omn, I will fire you if you are messing with me.”
My heart rate spiked as the darkness was getting to me. The quiet in my room was unnerving. I slowly walked out of my bedroom and into the sitting room that was converted into Cons Ronin’s bedroom.
“Ronin?” I asked louder.
The only response was slight breathing coming from Ronin’s bed. I stepped around quietly in the sitting room. There were only glowing embers in the fireplace. It illuminated the room better and I was grateful for that. I glanced around looking for another person. After about ten minutes of searching through the sitting room, I returned to my bedroom.
The voice was so loud. I couldn’t describe it really. I guess I really shouldn’t say it was loud because, in reality, the voice was really soft, but I could hear it so clearly. I freaked out so I returned to my bed and slid my feet under the covers.
I looked over to where Ronin was sleeping in a bed. How hadn’t he heard that? It was so loud.
“Ronin!” I called out to him.’
I could perfectly feel the desperation and sadness of that night. I felt exactly how terrified I had been. I could feel my head buzzing like that for the first time.
I was being attacked.
Maybe this was punishment.
Maybe this was punishment for screwing up my miserable little life.
I did mess up, right? I’m 19 and I’m becoming an Ene. Without context, you may think it’s impressive. Given even the slightest bit of context and I’m a dangerous psychopath. It’s crazy how quickly perspective changes. How people can go from congratulations to backing away from me very slowly. As if I suddenly turned from a human being to a wild animal that must be dangerous.
This room seems so bright. Almost way too bright. The room was warm and comfortable. Brinley was sitting across from me on the floor. Her legs were folded underneath her skirt. She looked very comfortable and almost seemed to be sleeping. I knew she wasn’t because her breathing was too controlled for that.
Brinley’s hair was in spirally curls that were done intricately into an updo. Usually, her hair is only in waves, her natural style. She seemed to be meditating. The room was quiet. The only sounds were of the wind blowing through the window. It filled the room with a warm breeze that relaxed me to my core. I knew that this was a false memory because we were alone. It appeared to be taking place a few months into our engagement because that was the only time Brinley regularly curled her hair. It was before her signature braid.
“Lucian!” Brinley opened her eyes.
My eyes widened. She seemed too perfect. She sat up perfectly straight. Her hair always moved back into its original place. Her smile was too bright. She was too open. This was my Fiancee, but it was a perfected version of her. Ergo it wasn’t really her. It still sounded like her and it still seemed like her. I wanted it to be her. I longed for the real her.
Brinley got up from where she was peacefully sitting and joined me. Her gloved hands intricately found their way into mine. There was another difference. Her hands were so much smaller than mine. They weren’t in real life. This was another thing telling me that this was a false reality.
“What’s wrong Luci?” She quietly examined our interlocked fingers.
I winced for a second. It was just a brief second of sharp pain in my head but it was gone a second after it happened. Brinley cocked her head to the side. I squeezed her hand as it was supposed to be reassuring to her it made me feel a little uncomfortable. This didn’t seem like Brinley. It looked like her and sounded like her but it wasn’t her.
“Nothing, I’m just feeling off today. I’ll be fine, love.” I assured her.
Brinley leaned against my shoulder. I felt a brief few seconds of pain. I wrapped my arm around her shoulders to keep me from clutching at my head. The pain passed and I sighed. I closed my eyes and let the light from the windows cover me.
“Hey, Luci! Are you okay?”
I winced again and waited for the pain to come back. It didn’t seem to be returning so I turned back to Brinley. I gave her a wide grin and pulled her closer. Brinley allowed herself to be pulled in. I kissed her forehead. A sharp pain pulsated into my head. I quickly dropped my head into my hand. I looked back into the light in my room. Around me, things were darker.
“Lucian!” Brinley asked panickily.
I curled into a ball and braced my head in my hands.
Brinley let go of me and looked around the room feverishly. All the furniture in the room was gone and it was just Brinley and I sitting on the floor.
“Lucian! What’s happening.” Her voice was getting louder and higher.
“I don’t know! I don’t KNOW!” I screamed as the sound pierced into my brain.
Brinley reached for me, “Lucian!”
“HELP ME!” I screamed at her.
“I don-, I-, what’s happening Lucian!” Brinley cried.
I pushed her out of my head and she continued shouting my name. I rocked myself back and forth and my world became dark.
Brinley’s voice kept echoing in the back of my thoughts but at some point, it morphed into Ronin’s voice.
My body quaked underneath immense invisible pressure. I could nearly feel my skull fracturing into two distinct pieces. For the first time, I screamed. I screamed as loud as I could imagine. The scream probably reverberated around the stone walls but I couldn’t hear it. I could only hear the echoing of my past in my ears. It was so loud. Nothing could drown it out. Not even myself.
In desperation, I looked up. Blurry eyed, I saw something I could recognize. Under the sheen of tears, my eyes widened as I saw something I recognized from my childhood. Something I hadn’t seen in years.
My mother’s red dress.
It triggered a memory that didn’t do anything to add to the noise. In fact, it was a quiet memory. A memory that was comforting to my pain.
I stopped at the grand hallway, panting. My mom was already half of the way down the hallway. It was unfair, our races. I had such short legs compared to her. Still, she always got me to race her down the hallways. Always mom, never a dad. I didn’t see dad much these days. It used to bug me but now that I was 8 mom told me I was old enough to know what dad was doing. Since Grandpa died a few years ago, dad was running all of Fyn. I’m still sad dad doesn’t play with me. I’m also proud that he is the leader.
It’s really cool to see everyone’s faces in class when I mention that my dad is the Ene. Their eyes get really wide and they ask me if I’m lying. Of course, I tell them that I’m not lying and dad really is the ruler. I think that is my favorite thing about him being Ene.
Mom turns to me and she tells me to sit next to her. Then she sits down on the benches. I sat down next to Mom and she wrapped an arm around me. She was smiling really big and she began talking to me.
“Look at the sunshine, Luci.” She said and she put her hand into the sun streams.
“It’s just sun, Mom.”
I don’t understand why the sunshine made her so happy. It was just sunshine, we see it every day.
“I suppose so, babe, but it’s so warm and pretty, isn’t it?” Mom picked up my hand and put it into the sun streams.
“We stopped playing so we could look at the sun?” I asked as I was getting anxious to continue our fun. “We see the sun everyday Mommy.”
“Ah, I guess we do, babe. However, it is very important to stop and pay attention to the little things. Even simple sunshine can brighten each person’s day.” Mom smiled at me, “Plus I have a little secret.”
I smiled wide, “What is it?!” I clambered.
“Sunshine is my favorite.”
I frowned at her. That wasn’t a secret. Everyone knew my mommy loved the sunshine. I want her to tell me a real secret.
“Just like your red dress is your favorite because that’s not a secret, mommy.” I looked down at her red dress she seemed to wear a lot.
Mom gasped, “It is most definitely a secret, Lucian, and you are the only one who knows it.”
That pleased me, “Even daddy?”
“Especially daddy. I’ve got to have some secrets.” Mom laughed and looked back at the walls.
“It’s still not a secret.”
“Fine, babe, what is a secret?” Mom asked.
“I like you more than Dad,” I responded and mom just gasped playfully.
“You know Daddy isn’t going to like to hear that.”
I smiled up at her, “That’s why it’s a secret. Shhh.”
“Come here,” Mom scooped me up and put me into her lap, “Baby, I want you to know that I’m not going to be around much longer,” Mommy whispered.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
I choked back a sob as I reached upwards.
I could feel tears in the back of my eyes as I reached for the sunshine of that memory that was slipping away.
I struggled for consciousness as I tried to hold onto my mom.
The last thing I saw before I was gone was my mom’s dress hanging in the closet of a man long gone.